This is an immensely irritating article. Very typical, and symptomatic, and all the more irritating for that.

More than half of Americans believe there are more violent extremists within Islam than in any other religion and that the faith encourages violence against non-Muslims, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll yesterday…Analysts blame the surge on a confluence of factors…above all, the riotous protests across the Muslim world against Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

Analysts ‘blame the surge’ on ‘riotous protests’ in which a lot of people were killed – killed dead, over some cartoons, the most ‘offensive’ of which was faked. Well, yes, that probably was a factor. In other words analysts ‘blame the surge’ on real events, and people’s awareness of those real events. Well – is that not allowed? Are people not allowed to observe real events and draw conclusions from them? What are we supposed to do? Observe real events and decide on principle not to draw any unpleasant conclusions from them? Are we supposed to observe Fred Phelps and his followers (one of whom gave an interview on the World Service last night that was quite astonishing) and not draw any conclusions about them?

But nearly half of Americans, 46%, said they held unfavourable attitudes towards Islam – compared with 24% in January 2002. The Post quoted analysts as saying that the demonisation of Islam by politicians and the media during the past four years had led to an erosion of tolerance.

So, there’s our answer: yes, we are supposed to observe real events and not draw particular conclusions from them. There are conclusions we’re not supposed to draw, no matter what the evidence for them. There are certain conclusions that are ruled out in advance. There are certain conclusions that are ‘demonization’ and the opposite of ‘tolerance’ (and, no doubt, ‘respect’), and they are forbidden. The only permitted conclusion, apparently, is that all religions (or ‘faiths’) have exactly, and I mean exactly, the same ratio of good to bad, the same number of faults and virtues, the same moral value. That is simply a revealed truth, and it cannot be gainsaid by any amount of actual real-world actions or speech, any amount of facts and evidence. No number of beheadings of schoolgirls, stonings to death of women buried up to the neck while their children are made to watch, exploded tube trains and buses and pizza restaurants and discos, death threats, ‘honour’ killings, riots, fires – no such number is permitted to be taken into account. No. It is simply Forbidden to think that it might possibly conceivably actually be a mere fact that there are more violent extremists within Islam than in any other religion and that Islam does encourage violence against non-Muslims. But what if it is in fact true? If it is in fact true, don’t we want to be able to take that in? Do we want to be forbidden to take it in by being told it is ‘demonization’? I would say no. Again, consider Fred Phelps. I don’t want to be told to ‘tolerate’ Fred Phelps – I want to reject him and everything he says. That principle applies across the board. We need to be able to judge religions and the ideas that animate them, and to say they are bad and harmful if they are in fact bad and harmful. It’s no good assuming anything is good or harmless without looking first. The use of the word ‘Islamophobia’ in the title of course sets the tone, by right from the outset (‘Islamophobia’ is the first word in the piece) telling us what to think: telling us to equate opinions critical of Islam with the loony-sounding ‘Islamophobia’. It was Islamists who came up with that idea, telling followers to use the word whenever possible; it’s pathetic that the Guardian helps out. It’s worse than pathetic.

James Zogby, president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute, told the Post he was not surprised by the poll’s results. Politicians, authors and media commentators have demonised the Arab world since 2001, he said.

And here we just descend into hopeless confusion and inanity. The survey was about Islam, remember? Not Arabs? Islam? What’s the Arab American Institute got to do with anything? What’s ‘the Arab world’ got to do with anything? What are we talking about? Anything? Everything? Whatever comes to hand? Is this just a none-too-subtle ploy to equate criticism of Islam with racism? Similar to the ‘Islamophobia’ ploy? Either that or hopeless confusion. Anyway, classic.

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